So, you know how expensive Vanilla Extract is? How about Organic Vanilla Extract!? Well, A day in the Country shares with us how to make your own Vanilla Extract at home: super duper easy and wow, the mula you could save! Check it out here.
So, no one actually reads this, but I'M BACK! Having a child puts many things on hold, doesn't it?! Harvey is one month old now and I have him on a schedule so I can finally start giving myself some attention. Today I am using a recipe from the awesome blog, Mini Eco to make playdough as a gift for my friends son's 3rd b-day! I am so excited to use the juice from the beets I'll be having for a late lunch and the yams I am eating right now! For more natural dye ideas, check out this site. This looks like an easy thing to do with your kiddos. Try it out! I've got to run: the little man will want to bury himself in my breasts in about half an hour.
I purchased a container of cipollini onions from the grocery store the other day. They weren't labeled as organic, but they were right next to all the other organic produce I also purchased: brown onions, boiler onions and yellow onions. I brought home my recent produce purchase, and promptly placed all the onions in my pantry with a plethora of other temperature-tempermentle, long storing veggies (tons of garlic, potatoes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, squash, squash, and more squash) which were harvested from the garden earlier this year. Also in the pantry is what seems like hundreds of herbs, quirky serving dishes, emergency backups, oils & vinegars, dry goods like rice and flour, and every other essential ingredient for baking one might ever need. The list does not even stop there. Why am I telling you the contents of my pantry, you might wonder? I am trying to give you an idea of how well stocked, and totally vulnerable my pantry is.
Back to the onions I purchased: I grabbed the lot of cipollinis to add to my short ribs and root vegetable stew and headed to the chopping block to prep them along with the rest of the ingredients I had gathered. I was about to open the package and dig in when I noticed a whole bunch of dark specs. I didn't have my glasses on so I lifted the package right to my nose and GASPED IN HORROR! It wasn't dirt (which I had assumed/hoped), it was hundreds and hundreds of tiny black bugs! YUCKO!!!!!! I threw the container and it's contents into the sink and ran back to my pantry in a panic. The light in the pantry recently went out, and me being as pregnant as I am, couldn't manage to stretch enough to fix it without a ladder. No ladder for this pregnant lady! I am so klutzy right now; that'd be like asking someone to just push me forcefully on the ground and get it over with. So: the light is out and I am moving loose, huge onions around on the shelves with my fingers crossed. I don't see any bugs yet, but then again, I still don't have my glasses on, and they looked like dirt particles in the light of our bright kitchen. There's no way I am going to be able to tell if the little fuckers have infiltrated my garlic stash or not without a full blown clear out of the whole damn pantry!
I'm totally pissed at this point, and I call the grocers where I had purchased the vile cipollinis which had now ruined my afternoon plans of painting my VERY-soon-to-be-expected unborn child's crib with the smallest paintbrush known to man kind, making homemade butter, and then finishing dinner before my husband gets home. The produce manager gets on the line and proceeds to inform me that in the store they spray a "non-toxic" spray on and around these veggies which contains nicotine, in order to keep any of these little bugs under control, should they be present. WHAT!? You are spraying what on my produce and all over the display?! There should be a sign posted about this! Here's a definition of nicotine:
When you wash your precious veggies off when you get home, you are not only transferring the nicotine from the damn plant to yourself via your skin to absorb by using water, you are most likely pushing the toxin further into the pores of your water based food source as well.
What part about a "non-toxic" spray would include nicotine!? So, who cares that I don't smoke... I shop at the grocery store and ingest nicotine all the time anyway. I should just give up trying to be good to my body all together if unknown, invisible danger is hiding behind every fucking corner! What else are they doing? Do I have to meet with the manager of every department which I shop in and ask them exactly what is done to each section?! F^&%$$#@@!!!!!!!!
In shock from both finding the bugs, freaking out about my assumingly violated abundant winter food supply, and now being told that the veggie department is sprayed with carcinogens, I listen as this dude continues to inform me that I need to empty out my pantry and give it a really, really good cleaning, because these fuckers invade quickly and without remorse or finicky eating/nesting patterns. He then tells me to throw away the infected onions, and they will gladly replace them for me.... Come on in. Right. Like I want cancerous veggies from your store... Again. NO THANK YOU.
Great. Insert insecurities and worries about ever really being able to live sustainably and organically in suburbia here. If only we lived out in the sticks with more than a few acres to work, then I wouldn't have to deal with this shit anymore! I hate suburbia, and it's naive veil, which covers your face and you don't even know it. Can I cry for myself, the rest of humanity, and my unborn child now?
What a great way to spend an afternoon... I mean evening. That's how long this is going to take me... at least.
Hahaha! Watch out if you pass by my house on foot today! It means you will be moving slow enough for me to run out with my habaneros and convince you to take a bag home! One unsuspecting man down, a couple more to go! Then we will have a more manageable supply on hand.
But, really: I am already making another batch of hot pepper relish which will yield 6 jars, 4 loaves of zucch bread, a loaf of sandwich bread and meatballs. If I wasn't pregnant I would make habanero infused vodka! It really rocks. Fill a mason jar with your vodka of choice (mine is belvedere) and throw in 3 or so whole habaneros, stems and all. Close up the jar and let those pepper sit in the vodka for 1 - 3 weeks, depending on how hot you want it. Remove the peppers and you have some hot vodka! I have made martinis with it, adding muddled fruit (peaches work great) and a sugar rim, with a mint leaf garnish to boot! It is divine: tastes great and there's a little burn in your throat as an aftershock! Definitely try this at home ;o)
Today I clipped more habaneros than I can keep up with! Are 2 5qt mixing bowls full to the top good enough for ya!? Mind you, I left a ton of the peppers hanging on to the stems because I can't deal with all of them yet, and some are so huge and beautiful, I want to save them for their seeds. I even went door-to-door in my neighborhood in an attempt to give my neighbors their heart's content of habaneros, but alas, no one was home!
In the basket today I also collected 3 zucchinis, 1 butternut squash, a ton of okra, 4 globe artichokes, and plenty of tomatoes for the week. Not to mention all of the other peppers waiting to be picked. I would like to declare Modesto, California the pepper city. Nothing else grows as prolific as peppers here (in my garden at least).... well, maybe pumpkins. Whatever. The point is we will not be planting this many next year! I can only can so much, and we don't seem to know anyone who wants hot peppers. I use them in everything from meatballs, to home made bbq sauce, but even I can't use them all. I hear habaneros are good for freezing, and that's the route I will go today :o)
I just realized I don't need to take pictures of the harvest every week: I use the same basket to collect the goods and we have the same produce coming out of the garden week after week now.... it must look like I've just taken different shots of the same fruits & veggies! So, for now I will list off what we've gathered. Just until we get some new specimens into our pantry! This week, we became the proud recipients of 4 cantaloupes, 3 large zucchini, 2 qts of habanero peppers, 1 pint of jalepeno peppers, 1 qt of pablanos, 15 okra spears, 15 red cherry tomatoes, 25 amish gold cherry tomatoes, 1 large butternut squash, and 1 bunch of basil. The weather has dropped a little (into the 70's/80's) and you can tell: production in the garden is way down!
Kenneth doesn't eat most of the items we are growing right now, so there is plenty for me to eat! I just got back from the Thursday Farmers' Market, where I purchased a few huge heads w/stems of broccoli, enough salad mix for a week, 12 huge apples (various types) and 2 huge bunches of basil. All of this for $20, and all of it Kenneth will devour without hesitation. We were spending $35 p/week with the CSA, and I had to really stay on top of what was in the fridge to make sure it didn't go bad. Now we can enjoy what comes out of the garden, and Kenneth can have whatever his little heart desires (seasonal availability prevails mind you!) and for less than what we were spending before. And get this: I don't have to freeze a thing! It's the perfect amount of produce.
The real test will come pretty soon, when we will be benefiting from our winter crops. I have a feeling we'll have a bit of a tapping-toes sort of waiting period during the transition while everything matures. The beans are just flowering, and so are the cucumbers. The winter squash plants are getting bigger, but are far from producing any fruit. The artichokes however, are loving the change in temperature, and we'll be enjoying them more shortly (sigh). Luckily the farmers' markets run until November: we'll have a good amount of time to get our act together.
We pulled the remaining pumpkin vines out of the garden, and the cantaloupes are next. We must make way for the broccoli, lettuce, spinach and brussels sprouts. The heat went back up into the high 90's this week, so Im glad we did not lay out seed this weekend! Tomorrow I will start the broccoli & the remaining crops inside so we can transplant in just under 2 weeks. Pictures of our harvest this week do not include the usual suspects, as well as some pumpkins, 3 large cantaloupes, 10 loaves of zucchini bread and a massive amount of peppers I have already turned into relish! What a great year for peppers!
The garden is producing quite nicely and I have been slacking in the processing department! Today I had to wipe my TO-DO List clear to make way for the cooking needed to preserve our bounty! On the list for today's kitchen activities, complete with recipes for you:
Zucchini Bread (probably 10 loaves and that won't even do the trick!) *recipe on my Recipes! page
My feet kinda ache just thinking about it. That's a lot of baking and canning and washing dishes!!!! But the temperature should be in the low 80's today, so there is no better time to get this done! I know I have said it before, but man, am I happy butternut squash has a long shelf life!
Harvesting sunflowers and scarlet runner beans for their seed (guest favors), making seed packets out of old newspaper and informational leaflets to go inside them, hand painting envelopes for the invitations, creating table toppers out of wine corks and scrap paper and gathering mason jars and old ribbons to hold the many local flowers there would be. We pulled it off quite green, considering it was an off-site wedding. It helped having a standing ceremony at the beach: no rentals, or even shoes needed! The restaurant who catered the event used only local, sustainable, organic ingredients when possible, and the food came out just amazing. It was a wonderful day, and the perfect weather was enjoyed immensely by everyone in attendance.
If I could marry my husband again today, I would! We would even use all of the same small, yet meaningful and sustainable measures we did a year ago! I think maybe for our second anniversary we'll throw a wedding party.... at home! Using produce, baked goods, and home-canned condiments from our garden and meat from my mothers farm!